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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 178

Mr MOSSFIELD (7:23 PM) —Mr Deputy Speaker Nehl, firstly, I would like to congratulate you and the Speaker on being elevated to the positions that you currently hold. I wish you both well in the forthcoming parliament.

In this adjournment debate, I would like to raise an issue that I have spoken about on several occasions previously: the provision of funding for the construction of the Western Sydney orbital road system. This road system would link the National Highway to Canberra and Melbourne with the F3 Freeway to Newcastle and Brisbane. In 1993, the then Commonwealth government announced its intention to connect the National Highway at points north and south of Sydney. The Western Sydney orbital would then become part of the National Highway system, as well as being a vital part of Sydney's major road network.

The greater Western Sydney area has a population of 1.6 million. It has a gross national product of $35 million and produces 10 per cent of the agricultural output of New South Wales, but it does not have one freeway-standard cross-regional road. The region has a large and growing youth population and needs to provide educational, health, recreational and employment opportunities for this section of our population. While not exclusive of other needs of the Western Sydney community, it is nevertheless of the highest priority.

Western Sydney has absorbed the largest proportion of Sydney's residential development since 1970. The availability of public services and facilities has not expanded sufficiently to serve the growing demands of the region. Western Sydney has been disadvantaged by the poor provision of employment and cultural opportunities and poor access to these limited opportunities. There are around 600 jobs per 1,000 people in Western Sydney compared with around 1,200 jobs for 1,000 people in eastern Sydney. People in Western Sydney have had to rely more than other Sydney people on the use of private vehicles because of a lack of decent and regular public transport alternatives.

With Sydney's population expected to increase to almost 4.5 million within the next two decades, it is anticipated that half of Sydney's future housing needs will be met in newly developed areas that are available in Western Sydney. To meet existing and future demands, the construction of the Western Sydney orbital road system is now extremely urgent.

The existing road network out from Sydney's CBD is radial and lacks cross-regional links between employment zones and regional centres. High levels of congestion are increasingly being experienced on existing road networks. Roads such as the M4, M5 and Cumberland Highway are Western Sydney's major freight corridors. The capacity of the M4 has already been reached, with 4,200 vehicles at peak hour traffic time.

This congestion is threatening the competitiveness of industry and commerce located in greater Western Sydney due to insufficient freight movements and longer transport times. The construction of the Western Sydney orbital would overcome these problems by improving access to employment, educational, cultural and retail facilities in Western Sydney by reducing travelling time and transport costs. The Western Sydney orbital would also redirect regional traffic away from residential centres, thus reducing local traffic congestion, noise and pollution.

Interregional traffic would be removed from roads fronted by homes, schools, child-care centres, nursing homes and hospitals, and the general community would benefit from the quieter conditions. The New South Wales RTA has estimated that there would be a considerable reduction in regional road traffic, ranging from 10 per cent to 45 per cent, with the construction of the Western Sydney orbital.

In its May 1995 budget, the previous Labor government committed $260 million to commence the construction of the first stage of the orbital between Preston and Cecil Park. Construction was to start in 1996. Additionally, in August 1995, the federal Minister for Transport, the member for Kingsford-Smith, committed $220 million for the second stage of the orbital between Cecil Park and the M4 at Eastern Creek. Construction was to start in 1998. The then federal Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the former member for Hume, announced in November 1996 that the Commonwealth government would set aside only $109 million over the following four years for the Western Sydney orbital. However, no funding was set aside for this project in the 1997 budget. I expect better results in next year's budget.